Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker concept art reveals a far more interesting Dark Rey than the one used in the finished film, as the alternative design goes against Star Wars‘ established rules. The final installment in Disney’s sequel trilogy has remained divisive among fans since its release, but given that J.J. Abrams was practically tasked with retconning Star Wars: The Last Jedi – an equally divisive film – The Rise of Skywalker had the odds stacked against it from the start. The reveal of some early concept art for the film’s Dark Rey shows what the protagonist’s dark side doppelganger almost looked like, and it paints a different picture than the simple hooded figure in the final product.
The Rise of Skywalker‘s Dark Rey failed to capture fans’ imaginations for a simple reason: it was a dull regurgitation of previous character designs. Dark robes, pale skin, oversized hood – while it does all evoke numerous powerful Star Wars figures, it’s nothing that the franchise hadn’t already delivered time and time again. Early concept art for the character was practically the opposite, though, with white robes and her face fully uncovered, and it makes for a stark contrast to the franchise’s previous dark side designs.
This early design, as well as being something of a departure from Star Wars‘ established norms, would actually have been an interesting progression for the franchise. Having Rey’s vision of her own dark side counterpart look distinctly unlike her grandfather, the resurrected Emperor Palpatine, would have served as a visual representation that Rey is somewhere in-between her Jedi mentors and her Sith heritage. One of the sequel trilogy’s main themes is the vast grey area between the light and dark sides of the Force, and the reveal of Rey as a Palpatine plays into that – having Dark Rey’s design break Star Wars‘ usual costume rules would have better set her apart from the heroes (and villains) before her.
Throughout the franchise, dark siders are usually hooded or masked with black or dark brown clothing. Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Darth Tyrannus, Darth Sidious, and Kylo Ren all dressed in black, and the alternate version of Dark Rey’s contrasting design would have set Rey apart from them all, offering wider implications for both her temptation and for the wider Skywalker redemption story. Playing on the established conventions would suggest that Rey doesn’t fulfill any of the previous roles played by any of the franchise’s villains, and it would also directly mirror Luke Skywalker’s black Jedi robes from Return of the Jedi. This would link her to – and separate her from – her Jedi mentor, as well as visually indicating her desire to challenge the existing philosophies.
The alternate design is likened to The Lord of the Rings‘ ring-tempted version of Galadriel, eliciting the same destructively powerful aura as the Elven queen. This would be more in keeping with Rey’s characterization as an incredibly powerful (and therefore innately dangerous) Force user. The internal conflict between light and dark, Skywalker and Palpatine, is central to the character, and her own vision should have better reflected that. If Rey is as conflicted as the sequel trilogy does its best to claim she is, then seeing her Dark counterpart visually contrasting previous villains would have been a powerful statement. Using the alternate design might not have fixed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s various issues, but it certainly would have been worthy of note.